When the school day ended, Mary Sherlach didn’t stop helping people.
“She was a psychologist off the job,” said her daughter, Maura Schwartz, 27, of Deptford, NJ. “Any time my aunts needed someone to talk to, they called my mom. Any time a friend was in crisis, they called my mom. She did not take her (work) hat off. This wasn’t just a job for her; it was who she was. She was constantly wanting to help people.”
Sherlach, 56, was among 26 people–including 20 children–killed during a shooting rampage Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The shooter, identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also killed his mother and himself, authorities said.
Sherlach, the school’s psychologist, has been hailed as a hero in the deadly shootings, and Maura Schwartz confirmed that her mother put herself in the line of fire.
Sherlach was in a meeting Friday morning with other staff members at the school when they heard glass breaking and ran into the hallway.
“It very quickly dawned on my mom what was happening, and she warned them back. My mom and Dawn warned those people back” Schwartz said in an interview, referring to the school’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung.
Hochsprung also died in the shooting.
Schwartz said that when her father, Bill, first heard about the shootings Friday, he knew his wife “wasn’t going to be cowering in the corner, she was going to do what she needed to do to protect those children. It does not surprise any of us that she would do such a heroic thing.”
Mary Sherlach passed her compassion for people on to her two daughters. Schwartz has a sister, Katy, 25.
“She taught me how be compassionate, to understand and get to know people, and I think that translated to me being a better teacher because of it,” said Maura Schwartz, who is a choral teacher and choir director at Salem High School in South Jersey. Katy Sherlach is a Ph.D candidate in chemistry at Georgetown University.
Maura Schwartz's husband, Eric, is a regular freelancer for Patch, covering high-school sports in South Jersey.
As the family prepares for a memorial service for Mary Sherlach on Thursday, and a funeral Friday, Maura Schwartz said one of the things that brings her comfort is remembering her mother’s joyfulness.
When there was rock music on in the house, especially a song by the Eagles, “she’d be dancing in her robe in the kitchen,” Maura Schwartz recalled. “She’d pull us in and start dancing with us.”